RIYADH: The Center of Asian Studies at Prince Saud Al Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies (previously IDS) organized the fifth workshop on Saudi-India relations aiming to bolster bilateral ties.
The two-day workshop began Tuesday night with the opening remarks by Abdulkarim H. Al-Dekhayel, director general of Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies, who welcomed the Indian delegation from the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).
Addressing the opening session, Saud M. Al-Saty, Saudi ambassador to New Delhi, expressed hope the workshop would help further enhance relations between the two countries.
“The two countries share a number of values and principles and the common values will help further enhance cooperation,” he said, adding that there are many opportunities to boost bilateral relations with India emerging as a leading economy.
ICWA Director General Nalin Surie expressed thanks to the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for the workshop and exuded hope that it would bolster bilateral relations. Surie said that high-level visits from both sides deepened the bilateral relations.
Responding to a concern raised during the concluding session on Wednesday, Al-Saty said Nitaqat policy has nothing to do with any nationality and against any national, but instead is about streamlining the labor market with adequate representation of Saudis in jobs.
Indian ambassador Ahmad Javed, in a reply regarding Saudis’ image in the outside world, said, “Kingdom has many things to offer that include tourism and travel destinations and with the ease in the visa system, more people will visit the Kingdom, which will serve as an eye opener for them.”
Ali M. Alqarni from the Prince Saud Al Faisal Institute, told Arab News the relationship between both countries is strong but there is still potential to further improve it.
He said the Saudi-Indo relations developed in stages. The first stage was the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947, which was followed by high-level visits from both sides and with both countries being pragmatic to involve in political coordination, trade and investment.
“The visit by late King Abdullah in 2006 ushered in a new era in bilateral relations as the historic tour resulted in signing of ‘Delhi Declaration’ imparting a fresh momentum to the relationship and provided the framework for cooperation in all fields,” he said.
“The reciprocal visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to ‘Strategic Partnership’ and the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ signed during the visit further enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defense fields, whereas the visit of the then Crown Prince and now King Salman bin Abdulaziz to India in 2014 further deepened the relations,” he added.
He also referred to the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Riyadh last year as successful in growing bilateral engagement
“I feel that it is still not up to the potential of both countries,” Alqarni said. “We need to do more, and in my paper I asked India to make sure because energy security is extremely important for the growth of Indian economy, and India has got to use its leverage on Iran asking it to stop its rhetoric threatening peace in the region, which is also a threat to energy security for India.”
He also named Indian companies working on various projects across the Kingdom and made a graphic presentation on India’s energy profile and its dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Zakir Hussain, a research fellow of the ICWA at the workshop, highlighted export and import in bilateral trade and its current status.
Citing SAGIA report, he said there are 426 Indian companies registered in the Kingdom expected to bring in $1.6 billion as against the Saudi investment amounting to only $72.70 million, which indicates toward more Saudi investment in India.